Sweet Surrender With the Millionaire

By: Helen Brooks
CHAPTER ONE

SHE’D done it! It was finally hers. A place where after all the trauma and misery of the last few years she could pull up the drawbridge—metaphorically speaking—and be in her own world. Answerable to no one. No matter it was going to take her years to get the cottage sorted; she could do it at her own pace and it would fill her evenings and weekends, which was just what she wanted. Anyway, if it had been in pristine condition she wouldn’t have been able to afford it.

Willow Landon heaved a satisfied sigh and then whirled round and round on the spot before coming dizzily to a halt as she laughed out loud. She was in control of her life again, that was what this cottage meant, and she was never going to relinquish that autonomy again.

She gazed round the small empty sitting room, and the peeling wallpaper and dusty floorboards could have been a palace, such was the expression on her rapt face. Walking across to the grimy French doors in which the glass was cracked and the paintwork flaking, she opened them onto the tangled jungle of a garden. Monstrous nettles and brambles confronted her, fighting for supremacy with waist-high weeds and aggressive ivy, which had wound itself over bushes and trees until the whole had become a wall of green. It was impossible to see any grass or paths, but she thought she could spy what looked like an old potting shed in front of the stone wall at the end of what the estate agent had assured her was a quarter of an acre of ground.

She shut her eyes for a moment, imagining it as it would be when she’d finished with it. Roses and honeysuckle climbing the drystone walls, benches and a swinging seat on the smooth green lawn and little arbours she’d create, a fountain running over a stone water feature. She’d cultivate lots of old-fashioned flowers: foxgloves, angelica, lupins, gillyflowers, larkspur, and pinks—lots of fragrant pinks and wallflowers and stock. And she’d have her own vegetable plot. But those plans were for the future. For now she’d simply clear the jungle and rake the ground free of the worst of weeds and debris for the winter. The most pressing thing was to get the house in shape, and that would take plenty of elbow grease, patience and money. The first two she had, the third would filter in month by month when she saw what she had left after paying the mortgage and bills.

Her mobile phone rang, and as she fished it out of her jeans pocket and saw the number she sighed inwardly even as she said, ‘Hi, Beth,’ her tone deliberately bright.

‘Willow.’ Her name was a reproach. ‘I’ve just phoned the flat and one of the girls told me you moved out today. I can’t believe you didn’t tell us it was this weekend you’re moving. You know Peter and I wanted to help.’

‘And I told you that with you being seven months pregnant there was no way. Besides which you’re still trying to get straight yourself.’ Beth and her husband had only moved from their tiny starter home into a larger three-bedroomed semi two weeks before. ‘Anyway, I’ve had loads of offers of help but it’s not necessary. I shall enjoy cleaning and sorting out at my own pace. I’ve got a bed and a few bits of furniture being delivered this afternoon, but there’s so much to do here I don’t want to buy much as each room will need completely gutting and the less I have to lug about, the better.’

‘But to attempt to move on your own.’ Beth made it sound as though Willow had gone off to Borneo or outer Mongolia on some hazardous expedition. ‘Have you got food in for the weekend?’

Before Willow could reply there was the sound of someone speaking in the background. Then Beth’s voice came high and indignant. ‘Peter says I’m acting as though you’re eight years old instead of twenty-eight. I’m not, am I?’

Willow smiled ruefully. She loved her sister very much and since their parents had been killed in a car crash five years ago they’d become even closer, but she had to admit she was relieved Beth would soon have her baby to fuss over. At thirty, Beth was definitely ready to be a mum. Soothingly—but not absolutely truthfully—she murmured, ‘Course not. Look, I’ve taken some holiday I had owing to get straight. I’ll pop in for a chat soon.’

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